Private sewer service pipes or "laterals"

A sewer lateral is the privately-owned and maintained service pipe which carries wastewater from a residence or other building to an OWASA public sewer.

In some conditions, OWASA may repair structural failures and settling in the part of a sewer lateral in a public street right-of-way. Please see the additional information below.

There is no charge to individual customers for these repairs by OWASA. The repair costs are recovered through monthly rates charged to all sewer customers.

Private property owners are responsible for maintaining laterals including clearing  debris, roots, grease and other blockages, most repairs; etc.

Private property owners are responsible for maintaining the part of a private sewer lateral in a sewer easement. (Easements are in off-street areas.)

Below is a diagram showing street right-of-way, private property and sewer easement locations.

An easement is a defined area within private property where OWASA has the right to do various kinds of work on our public sewer facilities.

Before we do structural repairs to the part of a lateral in street right-of-way, it is necessary that the property owner or customer:

  • Make a request by letter, e-mail or fax that OWASA determine whether we can repair the lateral under our policy. Please send the request to Manager, OWASA Collection and Distribution Systems Department, 400 Jones Ferry Road, Carrboro NC 27510 (fax: 919-968-4464; e-mail:
  • Have in place or install a “clean-out” pipe for access to the lateral at the boundary of the right-of-way and private land.
  • The clean-out must have at least the same diameter as the sewer lateral (at least 4 inches).
  • Have a plumber inspect the lateral with a special video camera to confirm whether a structural repair is needed, and provide the video to us.
  • Give us written permission to work on the sewer lateral.
  • Agree to reimburse us for our costs for labor, equipment time, materials, etc. if we start work and then determine that a structural repair is not needed.

When we repair or replace public sewers, we will, where necessary, replace the portion of  laterals within the street right-of-way.

OWASA inspects the part of new sewer laterals installed by developers or property owners, etc. in public street right-of-way and in sewer easements.

Our policy is intended to help property owners in situations where factors outside of the control of the owner may affect the structural condition of a lateral within street right-of-way. 

At the same time, our policy is intended to encourage property owners to properly maintain and use their private plumbing systems to avoid blockages from debris, roots, grease, etc.

IF YOU believe there is a blockage in your sewer service lateral:

Please contact us at 919-537-4292 or so that we can check whether the blockage is in our public sewer (and remove it if so) before you hire a company to clean the service lateral.

For more information: Please contact our Collection and Distribution Department at 919-537-4292, send an e-mail to or visit or write to us at 400 Jones Ferry Road, Carrboro, NC 27510.